Although great communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, what's equally important is trust and emotional intimacy. But while communicating can seem difficult for some, there's no denying that building trust and emotional intimacy, especially if either you or partner have been betrayed in the past, is even more difficult. It's hard to open up and put yourself out there when your trust has been broken.
"What questions will build trust with some people might not with others," board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. "Trust depends on how you respond to their answer, not just asking them a question. For example, if someone gets into a lot of painful details about their family, the question-asker may get overwhelmed and look like they want to escape. That might not build trust. These questions can be tricky if you don't take criticism well. If you get defensive, it's less likely to build trust, especially if you asked them the question in the first place."
But, ultimately, as the person doing the asking, it's important take whatever criticism might come your way and not get defensive. When you ask these questions for the betterment of the relationship, you can help build intimacy, not to start an argument.
1. "Are You Close With Your Family?"
"Asking someone about their family and whether they're close can build trust and emotional intimacy," says Dr. Edelman.
Every family is dysfunctional, to a degree. Even a seemingly "normal" family has more than a few skeletons in its closet. That being said, if you ask someone about their family, how close they are to them, and allow them to share with you all the details about just how their family you get to understand the reasons behind who and what they are, as well as starting a conversation that allows you each to be vulnerable and honest.
2. "How Would You Handle This Problem?"
People like to be asked for advice. Not only does it make them feel important, but it makes them realize that their input matters and you trust them enough to ask. It also allows for insight on how they would do something, which is revealing for you both.
"You could ask them, 'How would you handle this problem?' and get their advice on a current situation when you don't know what to do," says Dr. Edelman.
3. "How Do You Feel?"
Whether it's how they're feeling in the moment, how they feel about something that happened in the past, or even how they're feeling after a long day, people want to know that someone cares. Talking about our feelings bonds us and creates intimacy in the process.
“Be intentional to put your phone down, turn off the TV, turn down the music, and listen to how your partner is feeling,” Meygan and Casey Caston, founders of Marriage365, tell Bustle. “The word, ‘feeling’ being the key.”
4. "What Can I Do To Make Things Easier?"
"One challenge many people have in relationships is being honest with their partners, especially about what the other person is doing that might bug them," says Dr. Edelman. "Often they just put up with the behavior and resent it or they bottle it up until they explode, bringing it up in a less than tactful way. 'Am I doing anything that's bothering you?' might be a question to ask, especially if it's brought up in a natural way, such as when you've seen a [TV] show where the partners are sharing in a similar way."
We're all more than capable of annoying our partner. So, as much as you might not like what you partner has to say, it can help build trust to share these things with each other. In the end, both you and your relationship will be better for it.
5. "How Do You See Our Relationship?"
Because asking someone, "Could you tell me how and why you love me and I'll do the same?" might be a little intense, if you ask your partner to tell you how they see your relationship, you can open the conversation about how you feel about each other and why.
“Intimacy is the expression of love in your relationship. You can’t just talk about love, show it off by a piece of paper, or wear a ring. You have to express your love,” celebrity renowned relationship expert Audrey Hope tells Bustle.
6. "Do You Trust me With Your Secrets?"
“There is no greater title than Keeper o’ the Secrets,” relationship expert J. Hope Suis tells Bustle. This is so true. To build trust and intimacy, you want to know that your partner feels completely at ease sharing even their darkest and embarrassing secrets with you. In turn, you should be able to do the same.
7. "Is There Anything That's Hard For You To Talk About With me?
Dr. Edelman suggests asking your partner if there's anything hard for them to talk about with you. That way, if there is, you've given them the invitation to say it, instead of them struggling to figure out the way to tell you that they're not comfortable discussing it with you — or just avoiding the topic completely.
8. "What's Your Love Language?"
A great way to build trust and intimacy is to know what your love language is, as well as your partner's love language. Taking the quiz, which reveals how you show and receive love in one of five different ways (Words of Affirmation, Acts Of Service, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch) is a fun and easy way to get intimately closer, creating more trust.
"When the couples I work with report feeling disconnected, I have them take The 5 Love Languages quiz," Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. "If you have opposite or different love languages, it can account for not feeling loved by your partner. After discussing the love languages, pick your top two and discuss concrete ways you can both meet these ways you need to feel loved."
9. "Do You Accept Me For Who I Am?"
Although one would hope, or at least assume your partner accepts you for who you are if they're in a relationship with you, that's not always the case. So, in asking the question, as scary as it will be, it will give both you and your partner a chance to bond and come clean — in case they don't accept you for who you are.
“We all need someone that truly knows us and takes the good with the bad,” says Suis. “Being able to let our guard down and still feel valued and loved is a gift that some never receive.”
As Dr. Edelman points out, asking these questions can be tricky and, similar to love languages, people might build trust and intimacy differently, so it's important to tread lightly and do what's best for you and your relationship. Either way, these questions can open up essential dialogues that can help you evolve the intimacy and trust in your relationship.